You may be worried that your messaging is stale, or that you need a new way to tell your organization’s story. You might be right, but that doesn’t always mean you’re ready to write new messages.
Nonprofits, foundations and schools reach out to Mission Minded on a daily basis requesting help with their messaging. But more often than not, what they’re really in need of is a clear brand.
The mistake many organizations make is confusing their communications or marketing strategy with a brand strategy. At Mission Minded we ask, “Without a compelling brand strategy, how can you know what you should be communicating?”
Programmatic details are what many organizations communicate as the basis of their messaging. They’re rightfully proud of the complex and important work they’re doing to make the world a better place. But for people to appreciate your efforts, they need context. This means that you need to talk about the “why” before you talk about the “how.” We firmly believe the answer to “why” lies in a strong brand.
Your organization has a brand whether you’ve gone through a branding initiative or not. Your brand is the reputation that’s been created through every touch point made and signal sent. It is not your mission, logo, or a set of program features. Your brand is the big, bold idea that attracts more people to your work. It differentiates you from other organizations and offers a value that supporters can’t find anywhere else.
A strong brand is essential to the success of any nonprofit. It is also the foundation to strong messages – new and old. Your brand should serve as a sounding board for many things, from decision making to tone setting. Once you have a clear brand strategy in place, communicating effectively becomes that much easier.
By articulating how your organization wishes to be perceived—what reputation you want to have—and then doing everything possible to send the right brand signals, you’ll build the brand that will help you achieve your mission.
Think your organization may be ready to build a stronger brand? Here are six assets you need to make the most of a rebranding effort. You may already have some of these in place. For those that aren’t, put them in place before you begin so that your branding project will run smoothly. This way, you’ll get the maximum benefit possible from the investment.
1. Strong Leadership
Successful branding projects require strong leadership. Take time early in the effort to decide who will make important decisions and who will simply be consulted. If you work with Mission Minded, you will frequently be asked to make important decisions. Often these cannot be left to a committee’s vote. If you’re the president or executive director, you will consider, debate, listen, and be the decision maker. Are you ready?
2. Sound Rationale
Why are you rebranding? It shouldn’t just be to look or sound better, or because you’ve seen other nonprofits do it. There must be a strong business reason to rebrand, such as the need to attract more donors, be a more sought-after partner, attract more ticket-buyers or align your staff and volunteers around your mission or strategic plan.
3. Enthusiastic Buy-In
Your board and senior leadership should agree about the need to rebrand and the business rationale for making the investment. While the board may delegate the work to the staff, ultimately, they need to be enthusiastically behind the project. And you’ll set the tone. If you’re the executive director, you’ll have to be the most enthusiastic of all. It’s your job to make the final decisions and rally board and staff around the new brand. Mission Minded’s process is inclusive, so when the results are in, everyone—from the receptionist to the board president—will understand and be excited about your brand and their roles in promoting it.
4. Realistic Budget
Developing a new brand strategy and the creative new tools to promote your brand will take a significant investment of financial resources. But you’ll get what you pay for. So, plan carefully and budget realistically so you can do it well the first time.
5. Enough Time
While it’s great fun to participate in this exciting work, it does take staff and volunteers away from their normal duties. In addition to the financial investment, it’s critical to factor staff time into the cost of a branding project. You’re not outsourcing, you’re co-creating. You and your colleagues will be asked to participate in meetings and conversations with Mission Minded, gather background information, coordinate research study participants, and give us feedback.
Changing public perceptions takes time. Each interaction someone has with your brand contributes to the overall impression they have about your organization and its value. A thoughtful branding process, including the development of key messages and visual cues like a new logo and website, will help you simultaneously achieve your day-to-day goals and build the brand you’ll need for tomorrow.
If these assets resonate with you, read our 6 Questions to Ask when considering a rebrand.